Mike Berry reminds us that when the going gets tough, the tough get help and work together.
There are classes, books, seminars, magazine articles, therapists, and websites, all at our finger tips for just about any struggle we have on the adoptive, foster, and special needs journey. Most of them can help us heal from just about any wound we’ve sustained. But nothing is as healing as hearing the words, You Are Not Alone.
My friend John and I will often text back and forth in the middle of the day. I’m not sure why it’s the middle of the day, since both of us are busy, but that’s what we do. We’ll text about vacation plans, getting our families together, our kids having sleep overs, the comical thing the DJ said on the morning radio show and, most importantly, life’s frustrations.
The other day John’s text reminded me just how powerful it is to find out you’re not alone. You see, our families are very much the same. Both of us are adoptive parents, both of us have been foster parents, and both of us have children with special needs. We are walking the same road. Our children struggle with the same things. We deal with the same weariness and stress as parents.
Two of his children, and two of mine, are homeschooled. We each have a child who pushes the limits, and our patience, to furthest place possible. It has almost pushed our wives over the edge. But we are also both raising children who suffer from FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). On a daily basis we, along with our wives, are exhausted and defeated.
I shared the homeschooling frustration with John, among other things, and I was embarrassed. I shouldn’t have been though. His text back filled me with strength.
No man. We are in this together. Homeschooling can be hard on our wives.
Something Powerful, Something Healing
You may not see the big deal in a text like that. After all, it’s just the typical life of a pre-teen right? Slacks off at school work; a little bit lazy; not completely dialed in to what it means to have integrity! It’s all par for the course.
Maybe you’re right. Maybe it is just a normal thing and I’m overreacting. Maybe we shouldn’t allow this to frustrate us like it does. But when this plays out day after day, my wife has repeated herself 4 million times, and we tie that to the constant work of raising children with special needs, one with severe behavior issues, we’ve got a recipe for exhaustion. Add in the extra fears we face as adoptive parents, the trauma some of our children live with from their difficult pasts, the battle we fight to protect our children, and we’re running on emotional fumes. It can be an extremely lonely and painful road.
Sure, we could pull ourselves together, read a book, or download a podcast. We could even check out a book at the library that walks us through, step-by-step, how to set boundaries for a child suffering from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. We could see a specialist for ADHD or a counselor who could help our child make better choices than the ones she’s made. We could consult with a psychologist on how to deal with meltdowns that last for hours, or become violent and threatening to our other children.
All of this might help. But all of this comes up short from one thing—Hope! At the end of the day, the author of the book is not in our home. The specialist leaves her office, gets in her car and drives to her house, not mine. The psychologist shuts his computer down and sets his sights on tomorrow’s clients. They’re all helpful, but they fall short of hopeful.
It’s not their fault. I’m not blaming them for anything. That’s the way it goes. That’s par for the course. It can leave you feeling pretty desperate. But to find out someone else; someone real, someone with flesh and blood and a heartbeat like yours; someone who deals with the same struggles, has the same fear, and walks the same road with their child as you walk with yours? That’s hopeful. That’s healing! And then to hear those golden words, “You are not alone!” Ah, there’s something refreshing in every syllable.
Think about this in terms of our individual lives. We have a sin or an addiction. We deal with a struggle, or a disorder, that we hold close and never let anyone find out about. Why? Well, for starters, we’re afraid of judgement. We’re afraid of ridicule and shame. We fear the haughty glares from the eyes of those who think they’re better. So we hold our sin, our addiction, our struggle, or our disorder close so no one can sling flaming arrows at us. It might make for an easier day but it’s incredibly lonely.
But then, we sit across the table from someone who shares their deepest, darkest secret with us. In their words we find hope because in their words we hear the same dark thing we deal with. We find out we’re not alone. There’s healing in finding this out.
The other day my wife had a conversation with an acquaintance who opened up about her son’s stay in a psychiatric wing of a local hospital. As my wife listened to her heart she identified. Our son has stayed in the same unit in the past. We’ve walked through the trauma of a child who’s completely out of control, violent, and destructive. My wife knew each tear dripping from her eyes.
While she couldn’t offer any solutions, she could say from her heart, “You are not alone!”
And that’s the hope we can offer through this blog: You are not alone. 4 simple words that can bring healing in ways a self-help book or class might not be able to. We have been through hell and back with our children and we’re still alive. We know what it’s like to feel lonely and trapped. There is hope. There are other’s on this road. You are not alone!